Characteristics: Except for its bushy tail,
the wolverine looks like a small bear. Compact
and strongly built. Medium brown to almost
black in color. Color is paler on the head;
two broad, yellowish stripes that start at shoulders
and join on rump. Often displays white or
light tan patch markings on the throat and chest.
Feet are large in relation to size of body.
Largest terrestrial member of the weasel family.
31 to 51 inches. Weight: 35
to 60 pounds.
The primary wolverine habitat in Montana is the
coniferous forest types of the Rocky Mountains.
Roams large areas in solitude. Mainly animals
of the heavy forest.
A very opportunistic feeder. Generally a
carnivore, will also feed on meat carrion and
berries. Famous for robbing traps and food
caches of trappers. When necessary, can kill
animals many times its own size.
Active day or nights. Except for the breeding
season exhibits solitary habits. General
behavior is similar to other mustelid predators.
Dens in any sheltered place. Breeds during
summer; litters from 1 to 5 young are born between
February and April. Exhibits delayed
implantation of the fertilized egg.
Fisher - no yellowish body stripes.
The wolverine is a powerfully built, long haired animal,
somewhat resembling a small short legged bear, with
markings similar of those of a skunk. The back is
arched, and the tail is bushy. The feet are large and
well furred, with long, non-retractile claws.
Males are 31 to 51 inches long,
including a 8 to 9 inch tail. They stand 12 to 14 inches
at the shoulder and weigh 35 to 60 pounds. Females are
about one quarter smaller.
Because of its size, stocky
form, and long coat, the wolverine cannot be easily
mistaken for any other mammal.
The head is broad and short
snouted with small, rounded ears, small eyes, massive
teeth, and powerful jaws. The neck is short and
powerfully muscled, as are the shoulders. The senses of
smell and hearing are good but sight is poor.
The fur is long, with coarse
guard hairs and thick underfur when prime. The color and
texture varies with the individual. Usually, they are
dark brown above the pale lateral stripes which run from
shoulders to rump, merging at the rump and extending
along the top of the tail. In some individuals, the
contrast is very distinct while in others it is faint.
The under parts are dark, often
with irregular white or orange markings at the throat
and a bright orange patch on the belly, indicating the
location of a gland.
The wolverine walks in a flat
footed manner. The hind feet in fact, resemble the feet
of a man. It travels in several gaits but a sort of run
with long, bounding strides is the most common. It is
not a particularly fast runner but can travel tirelessly
over long distances.
The wolverine is a courageous
animal which is respected and avoided by other
predators. Even cougar and grizzly bear have been known
to abandon a kill on the approach of a wolverine.
Wolverines will often urinate on carcasses, fouling them
so that no other animal will eat them.
Both sexes reach sexual maturity during their second
summer. Mating is said to take place from April to
October. A delayed implantation occurs, with an active
gestation period of 60 days. The young are born in late
March or early April. One to four young are born in dens
located under protective rock slides, natural caves,
under the roots of trees or windfalls.
The young are covered with fine
white hair. The females gives the young extensive care
for up to one year, after which she drives them from her
Wolverines mainly eat the flesh of mammals or birds.
Wolverines are generally too large to subsist well on
small game, too small to effectively kill large game
regularly and too slow to pursue swift animals. As a
result, they often resort to scavenging carrion. Often,
they subsist almost entirely on winter killed animals or
the kills of other predators. This habit also attracts
them to trap areas where trapped or dead animals are
more available. The wolverine will hunt and kill
whenever the opportunity presents itself and they are
tireless and persistent in their hunting activities.
They will take a wide variety of foods, including hares,
mice, lemmings, ground squirrels, chipmunks, marmots and
beaver. Berries are often eaten in late fall. When food
is scarce, the wolverine will attempt to kill big game
animals and there are authentic records of attacks upon
mountain goats, moose, deer and elk.
Little is known about the habits of the wolverine. Due
to its poor eyesight, it has been noted to come within
50 to 60 yards of man before becoming alarmed. If not
absolutely sure of what lies ahead, it will sit on its
haunches and shade its eyes with its forepaws, just as a
human would do if scrutinizing a dim or distant object.
Wolverines avoid water or even
heavy rain if possible, but will cross small water
obstacles when necessary. Its habits of following trap
areas, robbing bait, kill, and eating trapped animals
while avoiding capture has caused problems for trappers.
Wolverines are most active at
night but will travel in daylight, especially in winter.
They are normally solitary and very intolerant of each
other except during the breeding season. They have large
territories and will periodically travel great
Wolverine are never abundant but are sparsely scattered
over extensive areas. As a result, they seem to maintain
a stable but low population most of the time. They need
wilderness areas where they can avoid conflicts with
The most viable and widespread
population of wolverines in the contiguous 48 states
occurs in the Rocky Mountains of Montana.
wolverine is a creature of the northern wilderness,
frequenting heavily wooded, broken, rugged, and
mountainous areas. The primary wolverine habitat in
Montana is the coniferous forest types of the Rocky
Mountains. Wilderness is an essential habitat component
as it requires large areas to roam over in solitude.
The fur of the wolverine is extremely durable, but is
generally to long and the leather too heavy to be used
for coats. Most are sold for parka trim because it does
not mat and frost up as much as most furs. The hoar
frost can be easily brushed out of the fur. The fur is
highly valued and widely used in the Arctic and
sub-Arctic as ruffs or trim on parkas and other
garments. Distinctively colored individuals are in high
demand for rugs or for mounting. They generally command
a fairly high price because of their rarity.
Distribution and Status
Wolverine occur in the western third of Montana in the
Rocky Mountain range. They are managed and protected by
regulated fur harvest seasons.
Special Regulations Note
There is no trapping or harvest
of wolverine at this time.